Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Micael!

OBSERVATION: Twelve years ago, I gave birth to the first human being that I ever loved unequivocally, unabashedly, without baggage or obligation. Micael taught me that love does not have to hurt. He is too old for his age, intelligent, smart ass, cynic, comedian, and a secret cuddler. He's slow to smile, but when he does, it's one of the most beautiful smiles I know. His trials and errors have made me worry, but I would not give them up for anything. I'm proud he gets to lead his brothers and step brothers. It's a heavy load sometimes, but he's up to the challenge. ♥

Happy birthday to my Micael.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Forgotten Gems

Vanessa Hahn
Balboa Park, January 2011

Vanessa Hahn
San Francisco, February 2011

Vanessa Hahn
San Francisco, February 2011

 Copyright ©2012 by Vanessa Hahn.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gender Roles & A Brother's Love

I have characterized myself as a girly girl.  I like smelling nice, wearing a little bit of makeup before I go out, wearing skirts and dresses, and hosiery and heels.  But I'm also a geek who loves designing and coding websites, reading science fiction books, comic books, artificial intelligence, true crime novels, and Battlestar Gallactica. I don't have an obsession with shoes, purses, or shopping, but I do love maps.

My husband loves fixing mechanical things (helicopters, cars, etc.), playing first-person shooter RPGs, motorcycles, guns, and P90X.  But he also loves art, drawing, yoga, 3D animation, fussing with his hair, cooking (his food eclipses the variety and tastiness of my own), and is very nurturing.

I love being a woman, and I know he loves being a man. But we both like things that don't necessarily fit the gender roles prescribed by society.

Perhaps my desire to appear attractive is a biological instinct to attract a mate. Perhaps my definition of girly girl is formed wholly by the American media.  For example, I consider what I am wearing today as conservative: black slacks, gunmetal grey tank top, fuchsia cardigan, but "pretty."  In another society, what I am wearing would be considered too revealing because of the fit of my pants and my decolletage.   Regardless of how or why these definitions came to be, they form a part of my gender identity.  I am an adult and I embrace the choices I have made.

All that being said, I don't believe that gender roles or gender identity should be forced on a child. They have to be given the room to form what they like and don't like.

I read a blog post on Huffington Post written by Kristen Wolfe, a GameStop shift manager.  It was originally posted on her Tumblr, but that seems to have been taken down.  Her blog was an open letter to a pair of brothers who visited her store.  In her letter, Kristen wants to praise the brother who stood up for his brother against a father that did not want his son buying a game and game controller that he viewed as girl-centric.  It was heart-warming but also thought provoking.

The father was threatening to spank the younger son if he did not put back a purple controller and a video game where the main character was a woman and picking a more "manly" game.  The older brother put his foot down and declared since it was his money, his brother could get what he wanted.  I'm proud of the older brother. He realized that his father's insistence was hurting the younger brother. In this tense moment, the younger brother can be sure of his brother's love -- love that every child deserves to feel!

Sadly, I've seen people like the father amongst friends and family members. They aren't necessarily threatenin­g to spank or beat their children.  But a child can definitely feel their parents' censure and disappointment. When a child wants or likes something against gender stereotype, they are immediatel­y steered in a different direction.  Those small acts can mean a lot and make a child feel inadequate.

Our largely patriarchal and puritanical society has established gender identity and gender roles and for many, straying from those established roles raises red flags about a child's sexuality and gender identity.   At those young ages, children aren't even thinking of whether or not their choices indicate their sexuality. I wish children were just allowed to be children.

My youngest son's favorite color is pink. At first, I tried to dissuade him from liking it when I realized how ridiculous it was. I don't get to tell him whether to like pink or not. As a parent, all I can do is protect him from real threats. Now that he is almost 11, the only advice I've given regarding his love of pink is to be aware that other children might say mean things about it, but that he should not be embarrasse­d. Do I think my son will become gay? Nope. Would it matter? Nope.

I've seen other children being forced to play sports even when they say they hate it. Being forced to play sports, play a certain game, or wear specific colors are not going to make a boy become straight and the opposite won't make him gay.

We need to stop this obsession of what "boys" should play with or what "girls" should play with.  If your daughter wants to play football, let her.  If your son wants to take ballet, let him!  They all grow up much too soon, and we need to make sure they grow up loving themselves and having healthy relationships with their friends and family.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This is love...

I just wanted to preserve this message my husband Jarrod left me on Facebook yesterday -- a particularly bad day.

"In this one, brief glimmer of existence where we find ourselves ever so temporarily, I choose to love you. Because you are everything that is right with humanity. That's honestly not hyperbole. 

You are responsible, compassionate, intelligent, and infinitely patient. When I am with you, my pessimism subsides, and I feel hopeful that one day, perhaps long after we've passed on, that most of the human race will be as rational, compassionate, and loving as you are. 

I am in love with you, Vanessa! Everyday, just by being your sweet, beautiful self, you inspire me to become a better man. And I want to share the rest of my life with you. 

...I'm so glad I married you. :)"

Here was my sacchrine response:

"Oh wow. Every second you prove to be the best man I've ever known. I love you so much. I really needed this right now. How do you know me so well? 

I'm so glad I married you too, Jarrod. We might be putting everyone on our Facebook's into a sugar coma, but I don't care. You're my favorite person on the planet. I'd ask you to marry me over and over again. It already feels like we're on a permanent honeymoon.

Love you!"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Political Bystander

Last Night's GOP Debate Was Like Bad 1950's-Style Science-Fiction

This piece was brilliantly written. Just yesterday I had to stop myself from reading articles regarding the Republican presidential candidates so I could complete a project. My public declaration read:

DECLARATION: While articles abound regarding the Republican presidential candidates, I shall not be distracted by their comedic value, sheer lunacy, nor their repugnant views. I have a proposal to finish and these things must wait! I must resist my urge to click on the news websites. Closing Facebook down until this afternoon. *game face* 

I'm beginning to think my reaction to the debates, video clips, opinion pieces and articles following the republican candidates would fall under the "bystander effect." I can't help these people see reason nor save them from their myopia. Am I watching as a spectator while these candidates eviscerate themselves for my own amusement? Are they my own political Roman gladiators --pasty, mom-jean wearing, jowel shaking gladiators-- and I'm just waiting for first blood?

I won't waste time feeling guilty because deep down and as revolting as these candidates are to me, I'm saddened to think that there are millions of voters out there prepared to vote one of them into the highest office in the land. They are offering fantasies and their visions of utopia with very little comprehension as to the impact of their policies on America as a whole.

Right now, we can all turn off our televisions and quit our news hunting, but there is a chance that one of these characters will become President one day. We will quit being the spectators and end up one of the victims laid out on the sparring floor.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sisters . . .

The drive was long, the cranky children plentiful, but I got to see my sisters Violeta and Lis in the Central Coast yesterday! Raymond , Verena, Lorena, and Lenthonio are such good nieces and nephews. I'm lucky! AND I finally got to see baby Ananalie! She's gorgeous and so alert! We went to Guadalupe Beach that's just breathtaking this time of year, we went to see my Uncles and Aunts in Santa Maria, then Chuck E Cheese's, various drives around the central coast, a night at the Motel 6, and much more. Jarrod Hahn enjoyed being Tio Jarrod. *smiles*

Best of all, we found a malnourished dachshund wandering the street. Poor thing is skin and bones, has a crooked front paw that we need to get checked out, and some fresh scars on his side and bite marks on his head. He almost got hit twice by a car before we picked him up. We took him home and we're going to see if he's chipped when we take him to the vet. If he's not, we're keeping him! We've named him Clyde. He's so sweet around children and quiet. Doesn't bark at people. But as soon as he saw my sister's cat and then our cat Butterscotch at home, he went into bark mode. It's high-pitched! We're going to have to work on that if he becomes a permanent member of our family.

Fantastic weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paula Deen & Diabetes

I think it's awful that Paula Deen has known for three years that she had diabetes and never once told her viewers. The types of foods she cooks with all the fat, butter, lard, cream, etc. is not the way a person with diabetes should eat. It was her food that led to the weight that led to her Type-2 Diabetes. As long as your body is still producing insulin, Type-2 diabetes can be "resolved."

When I was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes in 2004, my morning blood sugar was 210 (that's bad by-the-by). I was put on three drugs: metformin, avandia, and Byetta (synthetic gila monster saliva!). Shortly thereafter, I changed my diet, stopped buying flour tortillas, stopped drinking sodas, and sweets. I lost weight, and I've been at a normal blood sugar (no pills) since 2008. I was overweight then, but as you all know, I'm still working on it. I never want to go back to injecting myself with Byetta or testing my blood sugar on my fingers at work before lunch.

When Paula Deen went on Dr. Oz last month, she never once mentioned her diabetes - just her smoking. As a diabetic, smoking makes it three times as likely for her to develop heart disease, messes with her blood sugar levels, lowers good cholesterol, and can cause blood clots.

As someone who has had diabetes and no longer has it, I feel that it is Paula Deen's responsibility to change the way she cooks and the types of foods she promotes so that the people who follow her will understand that healthy food CAN be good food. It can be just as scrumptious as her other meals. No one has to lose their limbs, lose their vision, or lose their life because they don't want to change their diet. She has a public forum to be an advocate for health, and it's sad that she hasn't declared she's changing her act. She only states that her viewers need to practice moderation. What a load of crap!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cartography Pornography - January 15, 2012

Cartography:  car·tog·ra·phy /kärˈtägrəfē/
Noun:   The science or practice of drawing maps.
Synonyms: mapping

I, Vanessa Hahn, am a cartophile. 

Old World Map in my Entryway
I love maps! Maps are intriguing, beguiling, and sexy.  My collection of maps is hung on the walls of my office and at home.  While older maps are my passion, finely crafted modern maps still make me irrationally happy. This passion I have for maps has extended to personalized checks with an old world map motif, journal covers, atlases, and a small collection of globes.  The great thing is that my love for maps is shared by many people. There are museums(1) that cater to people of my ilk.  National Geographic has a neat online application where you can create your own custom maps.

My fascination with maps started when I was a little girl.  My mother married my stepdad Bill.  He didn’t like to stay in the same place for very long.  He is like that to this day.  We moved around a lot during the time they were married.  We lived as far east as Texas, as far north as Washington, as far south as Mexico, and all over the State of California.  My mother and stepdad divorced when I was 9 years old, and we relocated back to my hometown of Santa Maria, California.  The constant state of upheaval inspired both a wanderlust and a desire for permanence.  I saw myself in my own home with a family, but I also saw myself traveling.  It was at this time that my old globe became a focal point.

This globe to the left is the closest
I could find to the globe I had.
We had an old globe that moved around with us.  Back then, I lived in a fantasy world of books and my imagination.  I would twirl the globe around its base, point out my finger to stop it, and wherever my finger landed, that’s where my story would take.  (Honestly, I probably spent a long time spinning the globe WHILE reading some of my books.)  I remember writing a short story in sixth grade where my protagonist was going to travel to France from England to slay the last of the dragons.  I found the ports of Portsmouth and Le Havre on my globe and wrote them into the story as the places where he would take a boat to travel to France. 

I love cartography as well.  I don’t practice any more, but at 8 years old, it was a regular pastime.  I would take a piece of paper and spend hours drawing the shorelines of various land bodies.  I wanted to get the proportions just right so it looked exactly like the image on the globe.  I would incorporate these drawings into my stories, emulating the maps Tolkien created for Lord of the Rings.  I wish I still had copies of these stories. Most have them has not survived into my late 20s.

When my stepdad Bill and mother separated and ultimately divorced, I would receive letters from him that recounted tales of world travel and meeting famous people.  As a child, I believed my dad to be as worldly as Indiana Jones. I would look to see if I could find the city where he lived on my globe or in any of the atlases I had in my school books.  (I later found out that he did not travel to all the places he said he did.) 

Maps will continue to inspire a host of emotions in me.  I will continue to collect them.  I only recently stopped because I told myself that I would not collect any more until I get the two incredible world maps I have rolled up framed and hung.  A special mention should go to David Imus, creator of the award-winning The Essential Geography of the United States of America (article).  Previous winners of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS)’s award have been National Geographic (three times), the Central Intelligence Agency Cartography Center, and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Mr. Imus’ love of maps and over 6,000 hours of work have paid off and hopefully inspired a lot of younger cartographers.  See it here.

1.      1) The Map & Atlas Museum is relatively nearby, and I still haven’t been there.  It’s located at 7825 Fay Ave, Suite LL-A, The Merrill Lynch Building, La Jolla, CA 92037;  Jarrod and I are planning a trip.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Beginnings

I haven't posted anything in a long time. I stopped writing blog posts after I wrote Grandma Jewell's funeral program.  It seems I didn't have much to give.  From the outside in, she was my step grandmother.   She opened her home and her heart to this little curly haired imp when my mother met my step dad Bill when I was two years old.  I didn't get to know her until I was an adult, but she came to mean so much to me.   She advised me when I was going through my divorce. She insisted I deserved better. She lent me money when I felt I had no where to go.  I worked hard not to break her trust.  In 2008, I moved in with her and my Aunt Tina.  I lived with her for more than a year and a half before she passed away.  She told me so many stories about growing up and her views on thing. Her life was a great adventure.

She passed away at the height of my struggle with back pain.  I wasn't there when she needed me.  My visits were infrequent. I had two herniated discs, in physical therapy, with no relief in sight. I was also severely overweight.  I didn't realize I would take her death so hard or that I would feel so guilty. Up until that point, no one I was close to  had died.  My grandfather Manuel passed away in 2009, but we were never close.  Her loss was poignant.  I decided to take a trip to New York City to have an adventure like she did.  It was wonderful, but my pain still consumed my energies.  

In August 2010, I had my back surgery.  My weight loss and surgery have made the pain go away, but my writing never resumed. 

I think about her and how she would have been proud of me.  She was always proud of me, but I know it hurt her to see me overweight.  She would have loved my husband.  She was wickedly clever and so is Jarrod.  They would have been like peas in a pod. I'm sure of it. She would probably make a naughty joke about me finally "getting some." *smiles*

Life has been turbulent these past few months and years, but so exciting.  There have been trials, but my heart is filled with joy and love for my family and friends.   I owe it to my Grandma Jewell and to my family to be half the vibrant woman she was. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ethnicity & Identity

I grew up not knowing my father.  I knew his name, I knew that my parents divorced when I was a baby, and I knew that he was a very bad man.

My mother did not like talking about my father.  If she ever mentioned my father, it was to alternate between saying how stupid she was for being in love with him and sometimes doubting that he did the bad things he did -- even though she saw it with her own eyes.  Both my brother, who shares my father's first name, and I were painful reminders of my father.

I often felt that I sickened my mother.  My mother and I were RH incompatible. I was born severely anemic and shortly after I was born, my father was flown to Fresno, CA to give me a blood transfusion.  As a result of our incompatibility, her breast milk made me sick. My childhood was dotted with comments from my mother regarding my blood.  "You have more of your father's blood" and "you're the only baby I didn't breast feed."  Knowing what a bad man my father was, I felt that this tainted blood made me unloveable.  I have grown since then and realize that the blood he gave me that saved my life was quickly recycled by my body. My blood is my own. I can only thank him for my existence...and little else. But it doesn't change how I felt as a kid.

In the midst of this mental torment that my parentage caused me was a simple fact that was neither positive nor negative.  My mother told me that my father was half filipino. I grew thinking I was part filipina and despite all the bad things I knew about my father and wondering about the unknoweable things, I knew this fact. I knew that I was 3/4 mexican, and 1/4 filipino. In 6th grade, I made a report about the Philippines for Mrs. Prober's class. I was proud of my mexican and filipino heritage.

The year 2011 changed what was unknowleable.  Those unknoweable things were my siblings, my extended family, my aunts and uncles that I had no names of.  My mother never wanted to talk about my father and I didn't want to press her on these things.  Then my father's eldest daughter, Violeta, found me and opened the door to the whole Payan family.  I suddenly had my father's side of the family in my day-to-day existence.

I never thought to question his ethnicity until today.  Turns out, there is no filipino side. I went from knowing something about my ethnic identity to having it erased.  Aside from the bad things he gifted my mother and my siblings, one vital piece was gone.  Even my sons say they are 1/8 filipino. That's gone too.

There is a great sense of loss that perhaps is not justifyable. I did not cook filipino foods. I have very few filipino friends. I cannot speak any of their languages. It was just a part of me like my hair and my skin tone.

This feeling will go away with time but it does change me. Irrationally, I feel like he stole it from me.